I decided this would be a good topic to tackle, especially in light of a grievous slip of the pen in my second book. For those who have read Stalking Ivory, you might have noticed the word “penicillin” in there. It doesn’t belong, as many sharp readers have pointed out. And I know better; after all, I teach biology part-time. That’s probably why it showed up. I had been lecturing on it and antibiotic resistance during the morning, came home, wrote a scene involving a severe injury, and slipped the word in there. I meticulously double check terminology, slang, technology, etc. any anachronism before sending off a manuscript, but this one just slipped by. And I apologize.
So just what DID anyone of Jade’s time do in the case of injury? The most common reference made for treating wounds in the field involves copious amounts of alcohol. Pour it on the wound to clean it, then pour it down the gullet to fortify the victim. If you needed to sew something up or reset a break, pour a little more down to numb the pain. Explorer and filmmaker, Martin Johnson, wrote about treating a feverish East African pioneer in his book, Camera Trails in Africa. John Walsh, a hunter and settler of great fame in the early 1900’s, was assisting the Johnsons on their first trip to Africa. One night he came down with a severe attack of malaria including high fever. Johnson wrote, “we bathed his face and head and dosed him with whisky and quinine from our medicine-case.”
That brings up the second most important item in a first aid kit, quinine. Osa Johnson, wrote in her book, Four Years In Paradise, that a “whopping dose of powdered quinine, Epsom salts, and castor oil” was given to the native Africans in their safari to treat just about any malady. She also mentioned using aspirin on occasion.
So what options did Jade have in Stalking Ivory when Chiumbo was badly hurt? She could have taken a tip from the WWI soldiers and medics and applied pulverized onion as a poultice. Apparently, onions have a lot of sulfur in them which inhibits microbes from growing. Or she could have suggested that he needed powdered up sulfur applied to the wounds. If Chiumbo had been bleeding badly, she might have cauterized the wound. Cauterizing is the use of heat to seer a wound shut, and one of the old tricks in the field was to break open a cartridge, apply the gunpowder to the wound, and light it. But in that case, she should be sure to administer a liberal dose of alcohol to the patient first.
Next week: something surprising and fun
Labels: Martin Johnson, penicillin, quinine